I’ve seen all kinds of leadership, and most of it’s been bad.
I’d like to highlight some of these cases today, maybe so you can learn a few things about your own leadership style.
Back in 2012 I was working in China for a company called EF. I was working really hard because it was made clear to me that if I continued to do so, I’d be made into a manager. Wow, pretty cool! So I came up with all kinds of ideas and helped new teachers and really put some effort forth.
Several months of that went by, but I was never made into a manager. The company’s expansion slowed, and they didn’t open the new location. At the same time, I got my performance review and got the standard pay raise. In effect, I wasn’t being rewarded for all that extra work. I was given two promises in exchange for that extra work – increased pay and duties – but neither came. Well, you can say I got the extra pay, but it felt like more of a slap in the face.
After that I just stopped trying. It was clear that there was no incentive to work hard, no incentive to work above and beyond what they were paying you to do. When my productivity went down, they didn’t like it, and when I explained why, they liked it even less. Eventually, I lost my job.
My attitude could have led to that, but management decisions brought about my changes in attitude.
Getting an Earful
Back in 1997 I was working at the Baskin Robbins in Helena. It was a pretty easy job, and as far as the food industry goes, serving ice cream was probably the best. I had the job for at least a year, but one day stand out to me, and that’s the day I got chewed out.
It’d started the night before when an old friend came back into town. I got to talking with him and forgot to put the key to the mall gate back in the drawer. I took it home, and the next afternoon when I got to work it was made clear to me that the boss was not happy.
My boss was a former drill instructor who also had a state job. He hated his life, and working for him was a pain. That day he got off work from the state and came into the shop around 4 PM. He proceeded to chew me out, right in front of a customer, because I didn’t have the gate key. He claimed he’d had to get a new one made so he could open the gate that morning, but we knew he had an extra copy.
I worked there until the summer when I got another job. I requested an hour change, and when he didn’t give it to me I gave him my notice. Didn’t bother me a bit.
Back in 2009 and into 2010 I was working in China, and in a public school system that wasn’t paying that well. I needed more money, in other words, and went out to do some freelance tutoring. One of the ways I found that was through various websites where parents would post want ads for language instruction, and enterprising individuals like me would answer them.
One ad was for a place called Maple Leaf English. I sent an email and got a message to meet with a woman that was trying to get a tutoring agency off the ground. She had a place rented at the bottom of a busy apartment complex, one with lots of kids. She was convinced she’d make some money, and she was ready to pay me to make it happen. She even paid me for our first over-coffee meeting!
So I start working for her, but it quickly becomes apparent that the money she’s getting from parents is going right to me. She’s a middleman, but not getting a single piece of the pie. Worse, she’s paying out expenses each month for rent!
This goes on for quite awhile, and she even says I’m the only one profiting. At the same time, she’s complaining incessantly about Lehman Brothers and how they failed and how that ruined her life. All I ever heard was how what happened to her in 2008 was so unfair.
Both of those things were pretty depressing to me, and didn’t make me want to stay around. I told her that she should call it a day, stop the ‘business.’ She didn’t want to, and it went on. She was convinced more customers would come, but they never did. I’m convinced it was her dreary and depressed attitude, mainly over something that’d happened nearly two years before and which wasn’t going to ever become right. She couldn’t get over that, however, and her current business suffered.
Eventually I told her I didn’t really like teaching all that much, mainly in a way to convince her to get another teacher. I’d tried to convince her to stop, but that hadn’t worked. All I could really do was get out of that situation.
Sometimes you’ll have working relationships that are only advantageous to you, and not the person that’s helping you get that work. This is lopsided and unsustainable and breeds resentment. If you think you’re in a situation like that, get out.
Back in 1999 I was working for the Helena School District in their administrative office on Rodney Street. This job consisted of me going in for a few hours a day and helping to file, shuffle paper around, enter stuff into the computer, and other mundane office tasks. In addition, I’d sometimes go down to the print shop under Helena Middle School and do some work there.
This job was pretty good, and there was enough work to do…for about a month. After that it really dried up. After a few more months the other student that’d been hired with me was let go. I was still there, but there wasn’t enough work. Soon I was sitting at a desk with two hours left and not a single thing to do.
Remember, this was before everyone had a computer that could use the internet. Even if you could, there was nothing to do. So lots of people would talk on the phone. They’d call other bored office workers in town or even relatives. One woman always called her daughter after school, which I guess was fine, but then for the next 15 minutes it was chit-chat. I’d be angry about this if that woman had had any work to do, but she didn’t.
The bosses at this job let this go on, and there’s a main reason for this – they don’t want to fire those unneeded workers. This is a symptom of the problems that the public sector has. Workers are dependent on health insurance and all the rest of it, and can’t do anything else. Employers convince themselves that the few months of actual work that does exist justifies keeping that person around all year.
I always felt drained by this job, because it takes a lot more effort to look busy than to actually be busy. Eventually I left that job, making up an excuse that I’d found another job that paid $0.25 more. I hadn’t, but going to an office each day and pretending to work was killing me, and not working was more appealing to me than that.
Leadership in that organization could have done a better job with workplace morale, which is dependent upon the work that you’re doing. They didn’t, and I’d imagine that organization is still functioning just as badly.